Homer Runs

Calculating the pluses and minuses of rah-rah sports coverage.

Would it also be fine for a salesperson to be told in advance about, say, a rave review of a restaurant, so that he could then contact the owner and ask if he wanted to run a big ad opposite the critique? Temple says this question doesn't reflect a knowledge of "how newspapers work"; coordinating that kind of thing would be unwieldy. But the comparison of the scenario to "Top of the Rocky" is faulty, in his view, because "this is a specialty publication run on special presses on special deadlines -- and it's a supplement to our paper, not something you'd expect to see as part of the daily paper. It's a supplemental section that provides extra revenue to the Denver Newspaper Agency, and it takes a lot of planning. You have to justify the existence of the thing. It's a business initiative that contains stuff that's different from what we put in the paper every day."

Temple's right to talk about money in the context of such projects. Westword's Best of Denver edition, on which "Top of the Rocky" offers a variation, is annually the paper's most lucrative. That's why management secured legal rights to the phrase back in the '80s. (On one occasion, Westword's lawyers sent a letter to the Rocky threatening legal action for perceived infringement on the trademark.) Many other alternative weeklies across the country put out similar Best Ofs, which bring in loads of money and a gusher of publicity; even the plaques winners put up in their establishments pay off in terms of extending a paper's brand. But an informal e-mail survey of editors from alternatives revealed how differently publications balance their desire for a cash bonanza with the journalistic standards they aspire to the rest of the year.

Several editors said their publications do things as Westword does: The sales department isn't informed about who's won until the paper is printed. Avoiding the appearance of hinkiness is just one reason cited. Another is that sometimes last-minute cuts have to be made, and if a blurb about someone who's already bought a hooray-for-us ad gets slashed, awkwardness would follow. Other papers tell salespeople the winners of the readers' poll but keep the editorial choices secret until publication, to maintain a distance between writers and ad dollars. And there's also a percentage that, like the Rocky, figure that since the choices weren't made with sales participation, and profit's the idea anyhow, what the hell? Here's the list. Start selling.

Mike Gorman

Big bucks generally result -- but on occasion, so do conflicted feelings. One alternative editor, whose paper "reluctantly" started informing salespersons of readers' poll winners, put things in perspective. "It's the one time each year we in editorial feel like we've got to put on our high-heeled fuck-me pumps," he wrote.

Satisfaction guaranteed.

Hey, boo-boo: I was under the impression that Denver Post owner Dean Singleton holds the deed to every paper in the vicinity of San Francisco, but apparently I was wrong. In this space last week, I incorrectly identified the Contra Costa Times as being a Singleton property, when it's actually part of the Knight-Ridder chain. My apologies. And Dean? If you're thinking about expanding in the Bay Area, let me tell you about a publication that isn't already yours...

The Times mention touched on a plan by managing editor Chris Lopez, a Post graduate, to pay reporters a $50 bonus for front-page stories that are shorter than eight column inches, or approximately 300 words. In an e-mail exchange, Lopez provided an update. "So far I'm $200 lighter (four staffers have collected a crisp $50 bill from my wallet)," he wrote, adding, "Notice the money comes from my wallet, not the corporate coffers." He explained his reasoning as follows: "It's the whole entree that we try to deliver, and we talk about it in our shop in every department, both with reporters and page designers. Go long when you need to. Short when it makes more sense."

And when it means a dip into Lopez's wallet.

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